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STORIES FROM PATINA MEADOW
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STORIES FROM PATINA MEADOW

GET GROWING WITH LEILA

Hi! I’m Leila! I love to grow food & flowers; and this year, I hope to help you do the same. Over the next few months, I will be sharing my tips and tricks on growing an abundant garden in the hopes of making gardening a tad less overwhelming.


Image by Kate Dearman

Here in Tennessee, the green foliage of the daffodils and tulips is starting to poke through the soil, and I can’t help but get excited for the promise of a verdant and blossoming spring on the horizon. While it may still be a bit early to get out into the garden, this is the perfect time to get planning so that’s what I’m going to dive into first! 


Image by Kate Dearman

THINK ABOUT YOUR GROWING SPACE


If you haven’t gardened before, please don’t let the overwhelm of starting something new keep you from doing so! It is such a rewarding way to spend your time and it is so empowering to know exactly where your food came from. 


Image by Kate Dearman

You can start with one raised bed, or even just one pot, and go from there. I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds (no pun intended) about establishing a growing space, because there is a lot to cover, but I would highly recommend checking out YouTube for some great content surrounding putting together your space. Some of my favorite resources include Blossom and Branch and Epic Gardening.


PLAN YOUR PLANTS


My favorite way to select seeds is to think about what my family and I like to eat. Although tomatoes are a garden staple, there is no reason to dedicate an entire bed to them if you and your loved ones despise them! 

Consider the items that you frequently purchase at the grocery store. Perhaps you can’t get enough carrots, you’re koo-koo for kale, or you have a romance with rosemary; let your taste guide your choices. 


Image by Kate Dearman

Also, consider the seasons that your selections favor. In the spring and fall, while the weather can have cold moments, opt for vegetables like beets, onions, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, arugula, peas, kale, carrots, and cilantro. In summer, you can plan on planting your heat-loving varieties, like tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, basil, and sunflowers.


Image by Kate Dearman

Don’t forget to add some nasturtiums, marigolds, borage (pictured above), and other flowers to your garden bed. You can interplant these with your vegetables to attract pollinators and protect your plants from pests.


SELECTING YOUR SEEDS


If you’ve never gardened before, or you usually head over to your local nursery for plant starts, I highly recommend starting at least one of your veggies from seed this year. It is so rewarding to see the process from seed to seedling to plant to harvest! Plus, you’ll know exactly how your plants were treated from the beginning of their lives. I will be doing a whole post on seed starting in the upcoming weeks, don’t worry :) 


Image by Kate Dearman

Even if you prefer to get transplants, certain vegetables like root vegetables, peas, dill, and arugula do best when directly seeded into the garden because their roots do not like to be disturbed. 


Image by Kate Dearman

While you are shopping for seeds you’ll probably notice that they are identified as either hybrid, open-pollinated, or heirloom.


Hybrid seeds are the result of the intentional breeding of two plants to select for desirable traits, like increased yield, disease resistance, and taste. Think Seedless Watermelons, Sweetcorn, and Meyer Lemons. The main downfall of this kind of variety is that you can’t save the seed as it will not produce the same as the parent variety, if it produces at all, which requires you to repurchase seed year after year. 


On the other hand, open-pollinated seeds are the result of more natural forms of pollination from insects, wind, birds, and even incidental touch from humans. This means that they have a greater diversity than hybrid cultivars. Most notably, you will also be able to save to seed from these crops to use year after year. 


Heirlooms are open-pollinated varieties that are at least 50 years old, meaning they predate breeding work done by humans post-WWII. While they may not be as vigorous as their hybrid counterparts, like other open-pollinated varieties, they are more diverse, more flavorful, and have adapted to the climate they have been grown in.


Image by Kate Dearman

Although I purchase some hybrid varieties, I like to select open-pollinated seeds, and more specifically heirlooms for the majority of my seeds.  Although they may not be as vigorous as their hybrid counterparts, I value preserving genetic diversity, history, and flavor in the garden!


My favorite seed sources are Johnny Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I would recommend locating a small seed company that is located in your state so that you can select heirloom seeds that are more acclimated to your growing environment. Here is a list of heirloom seed companies by state!


CONSIDER YOUR SPACING


Now that you have chosen your varieties, and found your seeds, you’ve got to figure out how many seeds you need!


First, look at the seeds you want to plant. Somewhere it should state the desired spacing. You can almost always go closer than what the packet states. Frustratingly, through trial and error, you will figure out the best spacing for your climate.


Image by Kate Dearman

I am going to use an example of a 4’ x 8’ bed and onions to show how I figure out my spacing.


I am sowing my onions 10” apart in rows that are 10” apart. So I need to figure out how many plants I can fit in one row and how many rows I can fit in one bed. Now it’s time to put on your math hat. 



So we will order 60 seeds to fill a 4x8 bed! If you are going to be direct seeding, I would go ahead and double the number of seeds as you will need to sow your seeds thicker outside and then thin them down to the desired spacing.


Once you’ve figured all that out, see how many seeds there are per packet, order your seeds, and patiently wait for their arrival! Once they get to your home, make sure to keep them somewhere cool where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much just to keep them viable. 


That’s it for now! Next time, I’ll be sharing more information about planning your season and starting your seeds, both in pots inside and outside in your garden. If you have any questions or anything you would like me to talk about in the future, please leave a comment. Thank you for reading and I hope this inspires you to get growing. 


Love, 

Leila 




2 Comments


Unknown member
Feb 16

Leila, this is a fabulous post and chock-full of information, some that was completely new to me. You are a gifted writer. Looking forward to reading your future posts!

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Unknown member
Feb 15

Thank you for this inspiring post! You are right even though it’s still too cold to be outside it’s the opportune time to plan out my summer garden.

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